Friday, August 3, 2012

Does this Sound Familiar?

You no longer live in your home town, but no trip home would be complete without a visit to your favorite restaurant. For me, that means Rastrelli’s (in Clinton, IA), where I worked and developed my love of pizza. For Chuck, that restaurant is a short drive away to Joliet, IL, for a “poor boy” at Merichka's. Their version is a cube steak cooked in butter and garlic served on a poor boy roll that is slathered with garlic butter. And, if that isn’t enough butter and garlic, the sandwich is served with a small cup of garlic butter for dipping. It is wonderful, and try as I might, I can’t replicate it.

Well, for those who grew up in Russellville, AR, that restaurant is Stoby’s.
Russellville, Arkansas? Why? Because this city is near Petit Jean State Park—a park that a number of fellow RV’ers have told us is one of the prettiest state parks in the country. Only one problem. We left Memphis with temps in the 90’s. We arrive in Russellville to temps hovering between 105° and 110°. I see a lot of TV watching in our future.

(And speaking of TV, I am now watching Olympics mixed doubles badminton having just watched women’s doubles table tennis. Are these really Olympic sports?)

Like the Silver Caboose in Collierville, TN, Stoby’s is built around a railroad theme. At the entrance sits a small wooden toy train that serves as a planter.

To one side of the main dining room sits an old railroad car with dining tables and chairs.

Model trains (Alas, not operating when we were there.) run on a track along the ceiling.

And the space is filled with railroad memorabilia like this old lantern.

And there is this spittoon. Click on the photo if you can’t read the writing on the emblem. Some things should go without saying.

Like many hometown diners, breakfast seems to be the meal at which Stoby’s excels. In 2012 Stoby’s was voted Best Breakfast…by local readers of The Courier newspaper, was voted Best Breakfast by the readers of the Arkansas Times, and was selected by Esquire Magazine as among the best breakfasts in America.

And, like any good diner, the breakfast menu is extensive. You can choose from: the Ole' Omelette—a cheddar cheese omelette topped with chili, Monterey jack, cheddar cheese, and green onions; a
mushroom omelette with sautéed mushrooms and the choice of American, cheddar, mozzarella, provolone or pepper jack cheese; or the three egg Meat Lovers Omelette stuffed with real bacon, diced ham, country sausage, and melted cheddar cheese. And then there are pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, a breakfast burrito, and more.

Chuck’s breakfast choice was the French toast—six triangles of bread that had been soaked in the egg mixture until the interior of the bread develops a custard-like texture and then flattop cooked. The
plate was dusted with powdered sugar and the toast came with a carafe of warm syrup. Instead of butter, you were to use the squeeze bottle of liquid Parkay that sat on every table.

On the side, he ordered the hash browns (as did I) and these were excellent. Yes, they were probably shaken frozen from a bag, but they were cooked just as I like—very crisp on the outside and soft, but not mushy, on the inside. And, for an additional $1.10, we both added chopped onion and diced ham to the potatoes.

With my hash browns, I ordered one biscuit and gravy. The gravy itself was so-so. Not great but not bad. But the biscuits had an off and sour taste that had me stopping after a biscuit and a half. And I
know it was the biscuits since the gravy when eaten by itself did not have this taste. As best as I can determine (after about a minutes worth of on-line research) is that the sourness comes from the use of too much baking powder.

Now time for dessert. Dessert for breakfast? Yes, that’s the only way to describe Stoby’s giant cinnamon sweet roll. This baby had to be at least six inches across and was soft, warm, and yeasty and contained a very generous amount of cinnamon. Delicious. And messy. Even
though using a knife and fork, I managed to get white icing all over my hands. Do you know what happens when you wipe sticky hands with a thin paper napkin? That’s right. Bits of paper all over your hands along with the icing.

This was another of those meals where I am going to rate the individual components. The cinnamon roll gets 5.0 Addies; the hash browns get 4.0 Addies; the French toast gets 4.0 Addies; and the biscuits and gravy get 1.0 Addies.

And by the way, guess who couldn’t resist the urge to “Blow a REAL train whistle.”

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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